Syria regime retakes new region outside capital
BEIRUT – Agence France-Presse
Seven years into Syria’s civil war, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has ramped up its efforts in recent weeks towards securing the capital with backing from its ally Russia.
The regime took control of Eastern Qalamun northeast of the capital on April 25, state media said, after buses ferried out the last rebels under an evacuation deal.
At the same time, regime air strikes and rocket fire pounded southern areas of the capital held by the Islamic State jihadist group after regime raids there killed six civilians overnight.
The retaking of Eastern Qalamun follows a deal between opposition fighters and the Russia-backed regime that is the latest to see rebels withdraw from regions near the capital.
“The operation to bring terrorists with their families out of the areas of Eastern Qalamun has ended and the region is free of terrorism,” state television said, using its usual term for rebels.
Government forces entered the region’s town of Al-Ruhayba, some 60 kilometers northeast of Damascus, after the last rebels departed, it said.
State television broadcast images of Syrians waving the country’s red, black and white flag in celebration, some on motorbikes as they paraded through the town.
Assad’s forces have pressed forward with efforts to cement their control of the capital since they announced their reconquest of a key rebel bastion earlier this month.
Ghouta fell to regime forces after a blistering air and ground offensive and several evacuation deals that saw thousands of people transferred out and up to northern Syria.
In the south of the capital, regime air strikes killed six civilians in the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk late April 24, a Britain-based monitor said.
The latest deaths bring to 19 the total of civilians killed in regime bombardment on the capital’s southern neighborhoods since April 19, the Observatory says.